Tens of thousands of people who say they were sexually abused while scouts and filed suit against the Boy Scouts of America have reached an $850 million settlement, the largest in a child sexual abuse case in United States history.
More than 84,000 people are part of the lawsuit against the 110-year-old organization, which has been plagued with claims of abuse from volunteers and leaders since the 1960s. The Boy Scouts of America filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy last year as it faced mounting legal costs to defend itself against claims of sexual abuse against boys.
Ken Rothweiler, an attorney at Eisenberg Rothweiler in Philadelphia who represents the largest group of claimants — more than 16,800 people — says that this settlement is a start. The insurance rights for the past 40 years will be put into a trust that the survivor’s group will control and that could amount to billions more for the victims.
“I am pleased that both the BSA and their local councils have stepped up to be the first to compensate the survivors,” Rothweiler said in a statement Thursday. “We will now negotiate with the insurers and sponsoring and chartering organizations who have billions of dollars in legal exposure, of which a substantial portion is necessary to fairly compensate the survivors."
Rothweiler says the majority of his clients are in their 60s and 70s and the abuse happened while they were in their teens.
“As a former Boy Scout who is a sexual abuse survivor, I am gratified that the Boy Scouts are taking responsibility for the sexual abuse that occurred to me and others that we have had to live with for decades," one victim who is 65 and lives in the New York area said. "This acknowledgment by the Boy Scouts will start the process of healing for many of us who have suffered.”
The settlement was detailed in court documents filed Thursday.
The Boy Scouts called the settlement a significant step.
“This agreement will help local councils make their contributions to the Trust without additional drain on their assets, and will allow them to move forward with the national organization toward emergence from bankruptcy,” the group said in a statement Thursday.
“There is still much to be done to obtain approval from the Court to solicit survivors to vote for the BSA’s amended Plan of Reorganization. However, with this encouraging and significant step forward, the BSA is wholeheartedly committed to working toward a global resolution. Our intention is to seek confirmation of the Plan this summer and emerge from bankruptcy late this year.”
Last year, when the organization filed for bankruptcy protection a spokesman for the organization said it had two key objectives: "equitably compensate victims who were harmed during their time in Scouting and continue carrying out its mission for years to come.
“We are devastated by the number of lives impacted by past abuse in Scouting and moved by the bravery of those who have come forward,” the Boy Scouts have said previously. “We are heartbroken that we cannot undo their pain."
Boy Scouts leadership has insisted that scouting “is safer now than ever before” and 90 percent of the claims against the organization “occurred more than 30 years ago.”
“From mandatory youth protection training and background checks for all volunteers and staff, to policies that prohibit one-on-one interaction between youth and adults and require that any suspected abuse is reported to law enforcement, our volunteers and employees take youth protection extremely seriously and do their part to help keep kids safe,” they wrote in a statement to the “Scouting Family” last year.